The Rays certainly had a memorable end of the 2011 season but looking back over the course of the year there have been many memorable games. Each month had its fair share of memorable games and I've put together a series of monthly highlights and ask that you vote on which game was your favorite and discuss your memories of the games in the comments section. I'll conclude the series with a game of the year, which I suspect will have a landslide winner, but nonetheless it's fun to look back.
All the promise of the 2011 season was nearly wiped away after the Rays started the season by dropping their first 6 games and 8 of their first 9 but as the calendar flipped from April to May the Rays were in second place only 1.5 games behind the American League East leading New York Yankees with a record of 15-12. The Rays played in 5 1-run games in April and won them all. Below are several games just that just missed the cut to be included in the poll:
- April 12, 2011: David Price out duels Jon Lester to defeat Boston 3-2.
- April 19, 2011: James Shields complete game 2-1 victory over the White Sox.
- April 24, 2011: James Shields complete game shutout 2-0 victory over the Blue Jays.
- April 30, 2011: Rays defeat Angels 2-1 on a walk-off Wild Pitch.
Friday, April 8, 2011: Manny Retires and Dan Johnson Delivers as Rays defeat White Sox 9-7.
The Rays traveled to Chicago with a record of 0-6 and were already without third baseman Evan Longoria who was on the disabled list with an oblique injury. To add to the doubt and misery of the 2011 season the Rays found out all the hope and promise of a resurgent season for designated hitter Manny Ramirez was not to be as Manny tested positive for a banned substance resulting in a 3rd failed drug test. Manny chose to retire rather than serve the 100 game suspension. The Rays were on the ropes as they entered the ninth inning trailing the White Sox 7-4. The White Sox had made two errors around a B.J. Upton single to bring Dan Johnson to the plate with 2-on and the Rays trailing 7-6. Dan Johnson delivered a Great Pumpkin moment in April with a 3-run home run to give the Rays a 9-7 lead. Kyle Farnsworth came in to earn his first save as a Ray.
Monday April, 11, 2011: Rays pummel Red Sox and a legend is born.
The Rays traveled to Boston with a record of 1-7 and were in last place in the A.L. East. The Rays trailed the Red Sox who had struggled out of the gate and had a record of 2-8. The game was to mark the first time the Rays faced former Ray Carl Crawford who had got off to a horrible start posting a .132 average (5 for 38). Carl Crawford did have two hits on the night for the Red Sox but the evening belonged to Sam Fuld. Fuld went 4-6 with 3 RBI and 3 runs scored. He had 11 total bases on two doubles, a triple, and a home run. He also made an outstanding grab in left field to rob Dustin Pedroia of extra bases. Jeremy Hellickson, making his first ever start at Fenway Park, was provided with plenty of run support as the Rays battered Red Sox pitching en route to a 16-5 victory.
Thursday April 14, 2011: Johnny Damon walk-off homer give Rays 4-3 victory in 10 innings.
Carl Pavano held the Rays scoreless for 8 innings on 4 hits and the the Twins held a 2-0 lead. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire went to Joe Nathan to work the ninth inning and gave up a 1-out double to Felipe Lopez and walked Ben Zobrist before Matt Joyce hit a 2-RBI double to tie the game at 2. Cesar Ramos began the ninth by striking out Jim Thome before being replaced by Kyle Farnsworth who retired Delmon Young before giving up a single to Matt Tolbert. Tolbert advanced to second on a passed by on catcher John Jaso and scored on a single by Danny Valencia to give the Twins the 3-2 lead entering the bottom of the tenth. Matt Capps came in for the Twins and retired Reid Brignac for the first out before giving up a single to Sam Fuld. Johnny Damon stepped up and hit a 2-run walk off home run to give the Rays their first victory at home on the year.
April 16, 2011: Johnny Damon delivers another walk-off hit as the Rays defeat the Twins 4-3.
Scott Baker and Matt Capps combined to hold the Rays to 2 runs in the first 8 innings and the Twins held a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Joe Nathan came in to work the bottom of the ninth and gave up a game tying leadoff homer to Ben Zobrist. Nathan walked both B.J. Upton and Casey Kotchman before retiring John Jaso for the first out of the inning. Jose Mijares came in to replace Nathan and struck out Elliot Johnson but walked Sam Fuld to load the bases. Johnny Damon delivered the game winning single to give the Rays a 4-3 win.
April 28, 2011: Ben Zobrist with 10 RBI as Rays sweep a day-night doubleheader in Minnesota.
The Rays and Twins played a day/night doubleheader and the Rays won the first game 15-3 and the second game 6-2. The story of the day was Ben Zobrist who finished with 10 RBI after going 7 for 10 with 3 doubles, 2 home runs, and 5 runs scored on the day. After the second game Zobrist quipped to the media that "this must be what it feels like to be Sam Fuld.". The sweep of the Twins made the Rays only the team besides the 1995 Mariners to start a season 0-6 and get back to .500 by the end of April. The victory also gave Joe Maddon a winning record as Rays manager for the first time since he was 7-6 in his first season with the Rays.